Do you know that notification sound of an incoming text on a cell phone? That’s what happens in my head whenever I read about transportation plans or anything to do with public transport. In this instance, I was excited to read that Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan told Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC), that tenders will soon go out for the development of a transportation plan for Trinidad and Tobago. My excitement increased because I remembered that one of the selling points in the lead-up to the 2015 general elections was that transportation was a way of life issue and we were encouraged to dream of the 4+ hours we could save every day when an efficient transportation system was put in place if the PNM was elected to lead the government.
My excitement withered when I remembered a public statement by former Minister of Works Jack Warner who boasted that he used the box containing the rapid rail report as a footstool. During a discussion in Parliament in 2010, then Minister Warner reminded the population that a former PNM administration had spent $27 million on the Comprehensive National Transportation Study (CNTS) and Mass Transit System Study. All we have is a memory of the disappearance of $27 million.
My excitement transformed to cynicism because we are ignoring the recent work of Dr. Trevor Townsend and Katherine Agong, research assistant and Ph.D. student who carried out a scientific survey of households and developed a suite of travel demand models that can tell us about the daily travel behaviour of commuters.
My cynicism became mistrust when I recalled the political model for awarding contracts. This is my understanding of that political model: begin with selecting the intended awardee, craft the need to suit their stated competence, develop the invitation to tender, issue the tender, award the tender to the firm, wait for the variation or scope creep, and waste taxpayers’ money.
Of course, this political model for awarding contracts is never implemented because our politicians always act in the best interest of our country and the most transparent process will be utilized to procure these services. For those not paying attention, that sentence is sarcasm.
Minister Sinanan, there will be a long timeline between the award of the tender, the submission of the report, and the implementation of the recommendations. Is it your expectation that the population will continue to silently suffer the daily grind of an unreliable transportation system? We need some quick solutions to alleviate our transportation pain.
From my “ringside” seat you had a big spat with Transportation specialist Dr. Rae Furlonge so you are unlikely to engage him for professional advice. PTSC may have some history with Dr. Trevor Townsend so we could run a redline through him as a subject matter expert. So, your next best bet would be to engage Katherine Agong, a Ph.D. student who appears to be our most recent transportation advocate. She is quoted in the Express Newspaper of August 02, 2022, as saying that the study found that a major need for improved transportation, was “more reliable and convenient public transportation systems to replace the use of the private car.”
I sincerely hope that some action will be taken quickly to improve our transportation system.